Godsend by JA Marley – Review.

The Book:

It has been eighteen months since Danny Felix pulled off the robbery of his life.  His plan brought London to a standstill, but at a heavy price.

Now, living a quiet life running a charter fishing business in the Florida Keys, Danny is trying to come to terms with the death and destruction he had unwittingly unleashed. However, the low profile is beginning to wear thin and he soon starts to crave the adrenalin rush of his former criminal ways.

Little does he know that three very different women are about to enter his life and turn it upside-down. Soon Danny finds himself right back in the action.

But why has he been chosen? And does he have the appetite to pull off another job where the stakes are so lethally high?

My Review:

In Godsend (Danny Felix 2) we’re straight back into the snarky, cunningly-plotted world of Danny Felix, now ‘retired’ to Florida with his ill-gotten gains (see Standstill) and life as a fishing guide.

In the opening scenes (one of Marley’s most engaging scenes to date, for this reader) we’re treated to a very familiar Danny, ‘Super Customer’ indeed, and a felix who is very much in his comfort zone.

Marley then subverts his reader’s expectation of his main character and discloses the toll taken on his anti-hero in the aftermath of the London bombing from Book one. No indestructible, Gary Sue on display here for Marley’s readers, instead we are presented with the price being paid by an already flawed, but extremely likeable lead character, following the devastating conclusion of the previous book.

Panic attacks, self-doubt and countless shades of guilt and shame have seeded in Danny Felix’s soul, adding a new layer to an already terrific character. Felix is not allowed to merely move on from his actions in London and suffers the after effects of his deeds. Terrific characterisation and development here.
Fucking beautiful dialogue is on display also throughout with Marley slipping into Americanisms easily and convincingly, which isn’t always a strength for books written predominantly in UK English. Marley makes the shift appear effortless.

Having read Standstill, I didn’t really feel any great need for Felix to appear again as a lead character, I felt his story had been told. I was very wrong in this regard.

Godsend does what all good sequels do and takes the leads into new situations and challenges, developing their characters and squeezing their emotions and capabilities. The new characters introduced made great additions to Danny Felix’s world, and it was terrific to see some familiar faces from Book one return.

Marley writes with a thoroughly modern voice, always injecting an extraordinary amount of charisma, humour and depth into his characters. Each individual is well-motivated and allowed to display their strengths and flaws, rather than merely convey whatever is needed to move the story forward.

Marley is a writer who clearly doesn’t take himself too seriously, which shines through in his excellent characterisation and dialogue. Due to this, the characters population his novels feel fresh and believable, no stereotypes of the genre in sight, which is refreshing. Alongside, Ryan Bracha, Mark Tilbury, Robin Hobb and Jonathan Maberry, Marley has converted me from being an interested reader to an avid fan of his work, and an author whose books I simply can’t miss.

Godsend is a wonderful next chapter in Danny Felix’s story and a fine step forward inMarley’s development.

Godsend is available now frm Amazon and from Bloodhound Books

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The Key To Death’s Door by Mark Tilbury – Review.

The Book:

 

If you could discover the murderous truth of a past life and seek justice in this one, would you?

Teenager Lee Hunter doesn’t have a choice when he nearly drowns after spending the night at a derelict boathouse with his best friend, Charlie Finch. After leaving his body and meeting a mysterious light that lets him to go back to the past, Lee finds himself reliving the final days of another life. A life that ended tragically.

After recovering from his near death experience, Lee begins to realise that he is part of two lives linked by the despicable actions of one man.

Struggling against impossible odds, Lee and Charlie set out to bring this man to justice.

Will Lee be able to unlock the past and bring justice to the future?

The Key to Death’s Door is a story of sacrifice, friendship, loyalty and murder.

 

My Review:

No messing about… I fucking love this novel. I read a lot of books, this one is, by quite some distance, my favourite read of 2018 to date.

Tilbury’s use of POV and narrative style is completely perfect throughout and Lee/Paul’s voice carries the reader very nicely through the changing time periods and settings. Very nicely done.

Tilbury’s believable and charming dialogue aids the effect of this this tremendously. The technical skill displayed here shows how considerably Tilbury has developed as a writer with this work.

The novel felt very current, but also prodded a lot of nostalgia that’d connect not just with 80s kids but with kids of any era because of the themes of friendship and family and fidelity used.

It read as very visceral, very real, but also played out on my mind like a Quantum Leap episode. Pure entertainment at its best.

 

With the recurring themes of friendships and newly-minted courage, and loyalty, it felt like Stand by Me, and a little element of Stranger Things, but only in the feel of the people and settings. This wonderful work is not derivative in any way of those films and shows but does evoke the warm glows of childhood, despite the darkness throughout. It felt familiar and dangerous and modern and strangely comforting. Wonderful stuff.

Tilbury has revealed a golden moment in this book. Not just in comparing the lives of present day kids to those of the past, but the social commentary on domestic violence, the apparent exterior normality of the central monster, friendships that transcend circumstances and the deep loyalty of the boys. The author has portrayed the boys in a very genuine way and not fallen into trying to use youth-isms or patronised their POV in any way. I loved these teen characters and the simple courage they discovered within themselves as the novel progressed.

Some scenes are horrific but they make the sun shine all the brighter when it comes out. Despite the darkness it’s a very hopeful novel, which is quite some trick.

I loved the little quirks that Mark has used to flesh out his characters, giving them a too-real presence for the reader. Charlie always refereeing to Lee as Gus is one of those special little character kinks that bring great characters and stories to life. I was delighted that Tilbury didn’t force any explanation of why Charlie does this. It just is, and it’s fucking perfect.

The Key to Death’s Door is an absolute beast of a novel and one that elevates its author to a new level of skill and technical accomplishment.

 

The key To Death’s Door is available now from Amazon and Bloodhound Books

Mortal Outcomes by Dave Stanton – Review

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Book Description:

 

Bounty hunter Dan Reno never thought he’d be the prey. 

When a pair of accused rapists from a New Jersey-based gang surface in South Lake Tahoe, bounty hunter Dan Reno is called in. The first is easy to catch, but the second, a Satanist suspected of a string of murders, is an adversary unlike any Reno has faced before. After escaping Reno’s clutches, in the desert outside of Carson City, the target vanishes. That is, until he makes it clear he intends to settle the score.

To make matters worse, the criminal takes an interest in a teenage boy and his talented sister, both friends of Reno’s.  

Wading through a drug-dealing turf war and a deadly feud between mobsters running a local casino, Reno has to hunt a ghost-like adversary who is calling all the shots.  

The more Reno learns more about his target, the more he’s convinced that mayhem is inevitable unless he can capture him quickly. He’d prefer it to be clean, without further bloodshed. But sometimes that isn’t possible, especially when Reno’s partner Cody Gibbons decides it’s time for payback.

 

My Review:

Another solid offering into the series that continues to offer a pleasing journey for its readers.

Stanton continues to utilise fast-paced prose, invigorating locations and a style of story that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but remains unflinching when dealing with dark intent and deeds.

Mortal Outcomes builds on the momentum of the first two books in the series and places the leads in yet more jeopardy and depravity.

Fine stuff.

 

Mortal Outcomes is available from Bloodhound Books and from Amazon.

Stateline by Dave Stanton – Review

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Book Description:

Cancel the wedding. The groom is dead. When a tycoon’s son is murdered the night before his wedding, the grief-stricken father offers private detective Dan Reno a life-changing bounty to find the killer.

Reno, who is nearly broke, decides he’s finally found himself in the right place at the right time. But when a band of crooked cops get involved, Reno finds himself fighting for his life. Who committed the murder, and why? Which cops can he trust, if any?

Haunted by his murdered father and a violent past, Reno wants no more blood on his hands. But a man’s got to make a living, and backing off is not in his DNA.

Traversing the snowy alpine winter in the Sierras and the lonely deserts of Nevada, Reno must revert to his old ways to survive. Because the bounty won’t do him much good if he’s dead.

 

My review:

A solid entry into the genre from Stanton.

Stateline revels in its very overt Americana throughout. It seems intended to be a fun read, and it is for the most part and makes great use of a variety of locations, which I really enjoyed seeing.

The main character, Dan Reno, drinker, damaged, unlikable PI. Yeah we’ve been here before, but the stereotype is pitch-perfect for the novel Stanton has written.

Written in first-person, past-tense throughout, the style and POV is a staple of the genre, and one I unfortunately rarely enjoy. For me the writing style enfolds the reader in a security that the main character, despite whatever jeopardy they’re placed in, has survived the tale being told. Too often this choice can kill the feeling of any real peril. As a personal preference, I think the story would’ve benefitted from switching to a third-person perspective, or keeping first person and switching to present tense.

I’m sure I’m in the minority on this point, and Stanton’s story is certainly very well-written and flows well.

What Stanton does do very well indeed is present his readers an incredibly pacey, whirlwind of a story that ends far too soon for this reader, such was the extent with which it drew me in.

The dialogue is excellent throughout and, despite a few inconsistencies, Reno begins to be established as a character who might have something more to him than the stereotypes we are presented with as his main qualities during this first instalment of the series. I don’t need well-rounded lead characters, I’m happy if they’re a work in progress, and Reno is certainly a character I feel has much to be disclosed about his past, motives and frailties.

If being honest, Stateline was more of a 3.5 stars for me, simply because of the handling of the female characters in this book. At times, poorly-represented, often simply used to push plot or character development forward, the women who occupy Stanton’s novel weren’t allowed any real motivation or any tangible purpose of their own. Several could have added so much more to the story if allowed to do so.

Tightly-plotted and oozing character, Stanton’s Stateline was an enjoyable standalone read, and a competent first entry in a series that has the potential for some great character development.

Like its protagonist, flawed, but all the better for those flaws.

 

Stateline is available now form Bloodhound Books and Amazon

Time Shards by Dana Fredsti and David Fitzgerald – Review

The book:

Time shatters into shards of the past, present, and future. A group of survivors dodges threats from across history to locate the source and repair the damage before it’s too late.
IT’S CALLED “THE EVENT,” AN UNIMAGINABLE CATACLYSM THAT SHATTERS 600 MILLION YEARS OF THE EARTH’S TIMELINE.

Our world is gone, instantly replaced by a new one made of scattered remnants of the past, present, and future, dropped alongside one another in a patchwork of “shards”. Monsters from Jurassic prehistory, ancient armies, and high-tech robots all coexist in this deadly post-apocalyptic landscape.
A desperate group of survivors sets out to locate the source of the disaster. They include 21st century Californian Amber Richardson, Cam, a young Celtic warrior from Roman Britannia, Alex Brice, a policewoman from 1985, and Blake, a British soldier from World War II. With other refugees from across time, they must learn the truth behind the Event, if they are to survive.

TimeShards

My review:

Time shards is  technically accomplished, smart, visceral and is by far the most creative novel I’ve had the pleasure to read this year. This book had me tearing through the pages in the daytime and dreaming about being in Fitzgerald and Fredsti’s kaleidoscopic world during my sleeping hours. 

Forget what you think this book will be about, these are writers who defy all convention; displaying a reverence for pop-culture, tight plotting, excellent characterisation and throwing cross-genre elements around like confetti. 

Written 3rd person, past tense throughout, the novel benefits from two writers who play to their strengths and compliment each other perfectly. 

In the early stages of the novel, the division of labour is clear. Each of the main characters has their distinctive voice and ‘feel’. 

 As the main characters, and plotlines, converge Fitzgerald and Fredsti seamlessly blend their narratives whilst losing none of the distinctiveness, guiding the reader skilfully to the climax. This isn’t an easy thing to accomplish and demonstrates each writers’ skill and ingenuity.  

By the novel’s close, the reader is given an unexpected and thrilling conclusion, and one hell of a hook into book 2.  
An absolute monster of a novel by two accomplished writers who are as comfortable demonstrating their considerable skill, as they are trampling across genre and fucking with your expectations. 

Time Shards is available now at Amazon UK and US

In The Blood by Lesley Welsh – Review

Book Description:

Grace Dobbs, a champion at her local gun club, lives a quiet life in Western Australia with her mother.
But when a violent spree killing in the neighbourhood sees Grace come to the rescue, she is catapulted into the limelight as a local heroine.
However, her fame spreads much further than the local town, bringing her to the attention of someone in Britain who is very keen to meet her.
But what does this person want? And can they be trusted?
As Grace travels to England to discover her true heritage, she is about to learn the real meaning of danger.
Lesley Welsh - In the Blood_cover_high res_preview
My Review:

With crackling dialogue, spot-on scene-building and an utterly engaging writing style, Ms Welsh has produced a very impressive novel in In The Blood. I tore through this novel in a single day.

Written in third-person, past tense throughout, In The Blood is a lovely work from Lesley Welsh and one that displays her impressive technical range. The narrative flits between several characters, time periods, and cities early on, at once sweeping the reader directly into the characters’’ psyche, situations and their lives with some urgency. In The Blood possesses one of the most invigorating openings of any novel I’ve read in recent times.

For me, Welsh’s skill lies in her enormous talent for making each of her characters sound so different on the page despite being written in the same tense and POV. Many very successful writers struggle to develop this skill, Ms Welsh is simply gifted with a tremendous dexterity in characterisation.

In The Blood is an enormously enjoyable read. Entertaining, unflinching and seeped in dark intent, the novel leaves this reader lamenting that the late Ms Welsh won’t gift her readers another work.

The Author:

Lesley Welsh was a freelance writer whose work appeared in numerous UK magazines over several years, including Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire. She later teamed up with her editor partner to run their own London-based magazine publishing company Moondance Media until 2008.

She moved to Spain, where she began writing novels, and working as a publicist for a charitable organisation which helps fund shelters for victims of domestic violence. 

Her first novel, (published under her own name, Lesley Ann Sharrock) The Seventh Magpie, was published in the USA in 2012.

She then changed genre and, as Lesley Welsh, her debut crime novel, Truth Lies Buried, was published to great acclaim by Thomas & Mercer in June 2016. 

Lesley went on to write The Serial Killer’s Daughter, which was published by Bookouture in June 2017. At her untimely death, Lesley had just completed a further novel, In the Blood, which is now available with Bloodhound Books.

In The Blood is available now at Amazon.

Standstill by J.A. Marley – Review

 

J.A. Marley - Standstill_cover_high res

Book Description:

Even the deadliest criminals leave a trail…

When a psychotic policeman drags the young, ambitious thief, Danny Felix out of bed, he could not imagine he was about to be plunged into the robbery of a lifetime. 

Corruption and coercion follow the corrupt Detective Inspector Harkness everywhere he goes and now he has Danny just where he wants him. 

But Harkness isn’t the only officer with Danny in his sights. Christine Chance is getting closer to him while doing her best to be a mother to her seriously ill daughter. 

Can Danny escape Harkness with his life intact? Can he avoid detection by Chance?  And does he have what it takes to use the streets of modern day London to pull off the theft of the 21st Century? 

Danny thinks he can…but there will be bloodshed?

 

Review:

Standstill is an invigorating read that feels like it is adding something quite fresh, modern and fun into an often tired and clichéd genre.

J.A. Marley writes with all the technical skill and self- assurance of a seasoned writer whilst managing to make his characters, plot and dialogue feel vital, realistic and utterly connected to the plot which unfolds at pace throughout this novel. For a debut author Marley’s ability to tell a story, which he fires relentlessly at the reader, is notable.

Written in third-person, past-tense throughout, Standstill is one of the paciest and most engaging novels I’ve read in recent times. The reader follows a number of characters through several weeks in which they are brought together on the road to what is essentially an audacious heist at the finale of the book.

What sets Marley’s characters, and his story, apart from the usual heist romp is his ability to convey the very best and the very worst of each of his characters; exposing their intentions, motivations and desires without judgment.

Marley lays his characters bare before the reader, utilising some lovely flashback techniques that in less able hands could’ve been unengaging exposition dumps. Marley takes these moments and expertly crafts tender, or brutal or, heart-wrenching insights into his main players. This is not an easy technique, that a debut writer is assured enough to utilise, and in such fine manner, is impressive.

My favourite example of this was a scene in which Danny replays sections of his childhood whilst picking locks. This scene was heavy with metaphors and symbolism and was a completely perfect little section of writing.

Marley’s characters are the lifeblood of this wonderfully invigorating read. Each of them pulses into vivid life displaying psychological damage, realistic motivations, flaws, virtues. Each are genuinely lost while still remaining intent on their goals. Complex stuff, from some truly terrific characters, none of whom are minor or act as bit-players.

Dialogue is also a major strength throughout. Always believable, and never wasted, Marley’s dialogue serves to move the plot or the character development forward. Not a ‘spoken’ word is wasted as filler.

Marley writes in an episodic manner. Short, sharp scenes, no nonsense, no fluff; each crafted to accelerate the plot or expose characters’ intentions. I could easily see these characters used in an ongoing TV series. A personal highlight for me, was Marley’s use of Mr Bright Sky to serve as a beat for the heist. Loved this.

The main flaw for me in this novel (and it’s a minor one) was with the main character, Danny. Whilst we saw excellent development with CC, and to a lesser extent, Harkins, I felt that Danny did not change significantly throughout the novel. He remained, for me, largely unaffected by the events unfolding around him, and at moments, a little too in control at all times. His past gave him a lot of doubts and flaws, I’d have liked to have seen more of these exposed in the latter art of his story. Really though, it’s a minor quibble, and one I’m sure there will be adequate time to work with on the follow-up.

A hugely impressive debut novel from a talent to watch.

 

Standstill is available now from Bloodhound Books and at Amazon worldwide.

 


 

ABOUT J.A. MARLEY

 John A. Marley’s writing career started with a poem about two brothers who both liked sausages…their names were Butch and Dutch and his Primary School teacher Mr. Murray liked it so much it made the main noticeboard at the entrance to Holy Child Primary School in West Belfast.  A little older but none the wiser, he ended up as a film journalist in his native Northern Ireland, contributing to local newspapers, BBC Radio Ulster and latterly writing as the main film critic for the glossy magazine, Northern Woman.

John’s love of good stories came from the Irish predilection for telling a good yarn and the fact that there was nothing quite like sneaking away his Dad’s battered paperbacks to read even though he knew they were meant for adults and not kids. And so pulp fiction such as The Edge Westerns by George G. Gilman, the adventure novels of Alistair MacLean and the thrillers of Jack Higgins all served to whet his appetite for a good story told at pace.

These days, his reading tastes still focus on thrills, spills and good plot and he can’t walk by a James Lee Burke or an Elmore Leonard without pausing to read a few pages…even if it is in a busy bookshop. 

John runs his own production company Archie Productions which he launched in 2008. Prior to setting up his own indie, John enjoyed a wide and varied career in television with creative roles at Talent Television, Planet 24, Carlton Television and Walt Disney UK. 

John’s broadcast media career started in his native Northern Ireland as a radio host.

Links:

www.jamarley.com

@jamarleybooks

Bloodhound Books

J.A Marley at Amazon